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Thing 1: Getting started

Updated: Mar 6

A photo of a doormat with the writing 'Welcome.' A person's feet and leg standing in front of the mat can be seen.
Welcome to 23 Things International! (Credit: Marissa Daeger on Unsplash)

Welcome to 23 Things International!

This Thing is all about getting started. What’s happening, what do you need to do first, and what do you aim to get out of your participation?

What have I signed up to?

  • Programme overview and aims

23 Things International has been running since 2019, and gets bigger every year. It introduces researchers from all disciplines to tools and techniques that can help them to boost their productivity, raise their professional profile, and connect with other researchers. The programme also helps researchers develop a better understanding of the broader research landscape: best practices, positive changes to research culture, and new developments in the world of research. We refresh the content every year, and this year welcome new partner institutions, too! New subjects include tools for project planning, thinking more creatively, and dealing with the challenges of sensitive or difficult research.

By signing up to this course you will be able to experiment with several resources or approaches in a structured way, helping you discover if something is ‘for you’. You will also meet researchers from around the world to share your expertise and experience with; we create ‘pods’ of researchers with shared interests from similar fields and invite them to work together through the programme content.

By the end of the programme, you should feel more confident in using online tools and communicating your research, planning and managing projects, and have considered some fresh perspectives on what it means to be part of a research community.

  • The blogs and timetable

The programme runs for 14 weeks (including 2 break weeks), with 2 ‘Things’ being released each week. Each Thing is written by academic or professional experts, and introduces a specific topic, with links, voices of experience, and further reading. Some blogs are collaborative, and all of them are designed to invite further discussion.

You can find a calendar for the ‘Things’ on the home page. The programme is semi-structured, meaning that you can engage with the Things at your own pace (once they’ve been released) though we do encourage roughly following the timetable given, so that you can keep up the momentum and get the most out of meeting your pod.

Each blog has a ‘tag’ relating it to some of the overarching goals of the programme, to help you concentrate your efforts and relate different topics together. Our tags are:

I want to improve social justice.

I want to boost productivity and improve my wellbeing.

I want to improve my influence and professional standing.

I want to attract more research funding.

I want to understand how the research landscape is changing.


  • Expert contributors

Each blog is written by an academic or other expert in the topic covered, supplementing the discussion with their own experience. Some blogs bring together experts from multiple institutions to provide you with an even broader overview. Throughout, we are conscious of the differences between educational cultures around the world and hope this variety of voices will encourage you to reflect on your own context and those of others in the pods.

  • Tasks and discussion

Each Thing ends with some suggestions for further exploration. This might be to apply the topic yourself (such as exploring your own online presence) or to meet and discuss the topic with your pod. You can also use our dedicated Discord server to meet other people on the programme, hear about their research, and discuss your reflections on each Thing.

  • Pods

When you registered, we asked you about which of the 17 UN sustainable development goals were closest to your research, or of most interest. Based on these interests, we have grouped everyone into large groups called pods. (A pod is the name for a group of dolphins – wonderfully intelligent and playful animals, even if they are not renowned for their IT skills.) Pods will meet a few times during the course for live discussions – each pod arranges its own meetings – as well as communicating through the chat channels on the Discord server.

In your pod, you will find researchers from different countries and disciplines, all with their own interesting experience in research, industry, and wider life. It’s a wonderful chance to meet and share. In the past, some pod members have collaborated on research projects, met in real life, and even started a business together!

  • Completing the course

We do want to acknowledge your time and effort in taking part in 23 Things International, so if you complete the programme, you will be awarded a certificate and a unique digital badge. Completion is based on a self-declaration that you have read all the Things and completed at least half of the tasks. You are welcome to complete the course after the official run-time, too: the website will remain up for at least 6 months after the end of the programme. We do not check up on or evaluate the tasks – it’s entirely up to you which topics are most useful and interesting – but we can say that the more you invest in the programme, the more value you will extract from it!

Your task for Thing 1: Setting yourself up

Here we’ll run through the essential steps to make sure you receive all the communications from the programme and can access the resources.

  • Take some time to explore the website – you may find the FAQs section particularly useful.

  • Subscribe to the blogs by following the ‘Join the Research Adventure’ box. This will ensure you are notified when each Thing gets released.

A screenshot of 23 Things International homepage. The button 'Join the research adventure' is circled.
23 Things International Homepage

  • Get ready to meet your pod by joining our Discord server and exploring the different channels for text chats, live discussions, and events. Please use the link in your joining email from Mike to access the server. If you’re new to Discord, please see this handy video guide from Amanda.

What happens next?

This week you will receive an email from Mike ( introducing you to your pod. The email will contain some basic introductions and links, and invite you to start connecting with your fellow participants.

Your pod will have a nominated chair. Essentially their job is to get the ball rolling and ensure that the pod makes a good start to the programme, especially facilitating the first meeting. However, this does not mean it is solely that person’s job to make conversation; we encourage you to introduce yourself in the pod channel and get to know your fellow travellers.

After that, it’s really up to you and your pod to decide how frequently you want to meet. The two Things will pop up each week, some with pod-specific extension suggestions, some not. We recommend pods arranging to meet every two weeks, using the video chat on Discord, but you are free to set up a WhatsApp group, stay in touch by email, or choose whatever platform works best for you.

Do bear in mind that not everyone in your pod will have the same level of engagement, and you don’t need everyone in the group to take an active part. Like any online programme, some people prefer a more individual route, or can only dip into the course on occasion. Ideally, each pod will have a core who can network and collaborate throughout, with other members as present as they feel able to be. You will also need to juggle different time zones, as participants will be in Europe, Africa, Asia and Australasia, so you might like to arrange a variety of times and ways to meet. Regardless of the level of activity within your pod, everyone will be able to connect and discuss using the main text channels of the Discord server and we encourage you to get involved here.

And last but not least, we’ll share details of our live events as soon as these are confirmed. We have a 48-hour writing retreat guided by academic writing experts, ‘serious social’ events where you can meet blog authors and other participants, and topical content throughout the programme.

five people talking to each other at a table
Your pod is unique space to discuss themes, share your wisdom, and argue about your favourite Chess Grandmasters (Credit: Mapbox on Unsplash)

What do you want to get out of the programme?

This a very individual question – some participants will be experienced researchers planning their next large project or wanting to learn more about leadership; others will be early in their career and getting to grips with their first piece of independent work. It’s worthwhile spending 10-15 minutes this week thinking about what motivated you to sign up, and how you will maximise the value of 23Things.

Which of the goals really drives you?

I want to improve social justice.

I want to boost productivity and improve my wellbeing.

I want to improve my influence and professional standing.

I want to attract more research funding.

I want to understand how the research landscape is changing.

Beyond the blogs, how will you move forward with these ambitions? How can your pod be part of this success?

And finally…

Our top tips on how to get the most out of the programme

  • Emphasise experimenting. Give yourself the opportunity to try things out. None of our blogs will make you a world expert on the topic but they might just get the ball rolling on something special.

  • Pods are a friendly resource but need your input to thrive. Your pod chair will get the ball rolling and take some role in arranging the initial meetings, but don’t leave all the work to them!

  • Be realistic about your time commitment and priorities. We know you’re busy. Really busy. We’ve aimed to make the time commitment about 1-2 hours per week, but sometimes you will need to prioritise other things or will want to spend more time with the Things and your pod. A good approach is to plan a regular weekly slot for reading the blogs and meeting or interacting with your pod.

  • Staying motivated can be tough – 23Things lasts for several weeks and some Things will be more interesting than others. Keeping going will be easier and more fun if you have a clear plan with your pod, if you know what you want to get out of the course, and give yourself the time to get involved as much as suits you personally. This would be a great topic for discussion in your first pod meeting.

  • Have fun, discover!

A mug with 'the adventure begins' on a stone in the mountain.
Enjoy your research adventure! (Credit: Freddy Kearney on Unsplash)

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